From The Desk Of The Sheriff Of Cocke County

//From The Desk Of The Sheriff Of Cocke County

From The Desk Of The Sheriff Of Cocke County

To all the great and fine citizens of Cocke County, there are many responsibilities I have as sheriff and responsibilities your local county commissioners have in serving you, the tax payers. This monthly report will be primarily focused on budgetary issues which are part of our local governments’ responsibility to manage. Each month I have reported to you the continued success of fighting crime and how our officers are cracking down on the drug problem in our community. This success is funded by local taxes which are required by law for the protection of our community. During the 2011-2012 budget process, there were many meeting with the finance committee and on several occasions specific members of the county commission stated,” we will not be able to balance our budget unless we have a tax increase.” I, like others, do not like to pay higher taxes, however, because of inflation a community is eventually forced to raise taxes. As your sheriff I would like to inform you ways our department has worked to save tax payers money. In a six month period our jail made the county $ 169,373.16 by housing state prisoners. The state of Tennessee reimburses us $ 28.50 per day to house these inmates. Within a fiscal year the jail will bring in close to $ 350,000.00, all of which goes into the general fund and not returned to the sheriff’s office for its operation. We also generate revenue through Swansons, Inmate phone calls, officer fees, work release and sex offender registration, all of which brought in                  $ 38,188.22 in just six months. These funds as well go into the general fund. TCA 8-20-120 states “county governing bodies SHALL fund the operations of the county sheriff’s department. In the event a county governing body fails to budget any salary expenditures which is a necessity for the discharge of the statutorily mandated duties of the sheriff, the sheriff may seek a writ of mandamus to compel such appropriation.” Rather that fighting with the CLB, I attempted to work with them with the poor budget I was given. If we as a department cut out all of these programs and did not house state inmates our county would lose close to $ 500,000.00 a year in revenue. Our department helps the general sessions court, circuit court and juvenile generate revenue. A large portion of arrests and most all civil process is done by officers with the Cocke County Sheriff’s Office. Our county government could not function without the sheriff’s department. We serve and protect the courts, protect our citizens and give victims justice, transport all mental health patients, assist the district attorney’s office and assist the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. We continue to do this even though the sheriff’s office budget has been cut $ 101,035.00 in the past couple of years. What I find interesting is that prior to my taking office the sheriff’s office was given $773,287.00 between the years of 2002 and 2008. One way this year I saved the county $50,000.00 was by seizing two vehicles which were taken from a drug dealer and I put these vehicles in our detective division, this has never been done before. I also, for the past two years, have purchased used vehicles for our patrol division/SRO’s and put another seized vehicle to work in our School Resource Officer program. This has saved the county another $ 30,000.00 which has never been done before. Not to mention I am the first sheriff to specifically drive a used vehicle since taking office.  We have given in every way possible without shutting part of the department down and I did not agree with the budget cuts made because I knew these funds would be needed to support our department, yet the county commission voted and passed a skeleton budget for us to work under. In response to this, we, as a department continued to work hard and have attempted to watch spending in every way.  We have used drug fund money to purchase essential equipment needed for drug investigations which saved the county $10,000.00 dollars. We have used inmate labor to assist the county school system with major projects which would have cost the county approximately $ 12,000.00 in contract labor. During a recent meeting with our county finance committee I specifically asked the members, “do any of you see areas where I have wasted finances, misused revenue, or see areas we need to improve?” None of the members gave any indication of wrong doing with my budget. In fact, members stated we were doing a great job. I have used about .66% of my total budget which is consistent with normal department operations and the only two areas we are over budget on is fuel and jail part time labor. Well I do not control fuel prices and I am currently housing on average 170 inmates compared to 80 on average from last year. We are required by TCI and by law to have adequate correction officers on staff and this has hurt my part time budget.  In a finance committee meeting on Monday, February 13, 2012, we discussed a need of $ 70,000.00 out of our general fund to cover these two areas where we had a short fall and our county had an encumbered balance of a little over$140,000.00. Commissioner Dan Metcalf stated, “we should have never passed a budget which had a encumbered balance of $140,000.00.” I agree with Mr. Metcalf. I questioned the board as to what I was supposed to do when we ran out of fuel and had emergency calls to answer, burglaries to work, and people to protect. Mr. Metcalf replied, “tell them you did not stay within your budget.” Our county commission has a tough job managing finances. We have some great commissioners who try to support our sheriff’s office and I thank them. In the past two months $250,000.00 was given to the county fire department to purchase a new fire truck, in January $ 300,000.00 dollars was given to the highway department so they would not loose state funding and another $200,000.00 was given to purchase equipment for the highway department. The fire department and highway department have great people who deserve decent pay, decent equipment, and do a great job. I just question the needed support of the sheriff’s office of, $70,000.00  which is very little in comparison to $ 750,000.00 given to other departments recently. My primary concern is saving lives, shutting down drug dealers who are destroying families, stopping thieves from stealing hard working citizen’s property, using our finances wisely and protecting our seniors from being victimized. I cannot do this unless the county commission supports us financially. In light of all these facts, I was elected your Sheriff and will continue to fulfill my duties to the best of my ability with what I’ve been given. I thank God for His guidance and I thank you the citizens of Cocke County for your continued prayers and support. Remember to go to www.cockecountysd.com to see our department web site and to allow you to leave information concerning illegal activity in an anonymous way.

Your Sheriff,

Armando Fontes

By | 2019-10-08T12:09:38+00:00 August 23rd, 2017|News|0 Comments

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